A healthy heart is important. We all know that. The theme for this year’s World Heart Day was about a life course approach to the prevention and control of cardiovascular disease (CVD) with a special focus on women and children. Healthy children grow into healthy adults with healthy hearts, who in turn mean healthy families…which makes a healthy heart a good goal to aim for, especially when we can prevent the impact of heart disease and stroke by developing heart-healthy living from childhood up.
Healthy hearts, healthy lives
Here is valuable information to help you look after your precious heart.
While women have the same risk factors as men, there are some factors that put them at greater risk. Let’s look at the six major risk factors for heart disease and stroke in women:
- Smoking – active and passive
- Being overweight – obesity
- Physical inactivity – being a couch potato
- High blood pressure or hypertension
- High blood cholesterol
These can be controlled.
The good news is, you can take action with most of your risk factors. Usually, it is as simple as changing your diet and physical activity.
To find out your risk of a heart attack or stroke, you need the following information:
- How much fat – abdominal fat and as a proportion of height and weight.
- Your cholesterol levels
- Your blood pressure
Excess fat around the abdomen or waist directly translates to a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. It is the same with high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Some hard facts:
- Women smokers are at greater risk of a heart attack than male smokers (How unfair!)
- Women who smoke 2-5 cigarettes a day double their risk of a heart attack, while for men it takes 6-9 cigarettes a day to double their risk. This includes passive smoking.
- If you are a woman smoker who uses birth control pills, your risk for heart attack and stroke is higher than non-smokers on birth control pills.
- Obese smokers live for 14 fewer years than non smokers with normal weight
- Physical inactivity increases the risk for coronary heart disease and stroke one and a half times
- From the age of 45, women’s cholesterol is higher than that of men. High LDL or bad cholesterol increases the risk of heart attack
- Diabetic women are at greater risk for heart disease, strokes and heart attacks
As if the above weren’t enough, there are risk factors that are out of your control and they are:
- Aging increases the risk for heart disease and stroke
- If there is a family history of heart disease you are likely to suffer too
- If you have had a heart attack or stroke in the past, your risk of a second one is higher.
- Some ethnic populations are at higher risk than others. Examples of high risk populations are Hispanic Americans, Chinese, Japanese and African Americans.
Can you ensure a healthy heart?
Yes! You can protect your heart. Here are some tips:
- Be active. Just 30 minutes of activity each day can put you on the road to a healthy heart. Make exercise a regular part of your routine. There are easy ways such as ditching the lift and taking the stairs, get off a couple of stops away from your workplace and walk. Walk your pet. Dance to 15 minutes of music
- Kick the butt. Say no to tobacco. This will reduce your risk by half in a year. Skip smokey environments. And no passive smoking.
- Watch your weight. A healthy weight not only makes you feel good, but also increases your self-confidence
- Limit your salt intake to keep your blood pressure under control
- Get your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels checked periodically. High BP is the greatest risk factor for stroke.
- Eat healthy and this means lots of fruits and veggies, grains, lean meat, fish, lentils and all foods with low saturated salts.
- Processed food junkie? Be careful as they are usually salt bombs.
- Drink plenty of water
- Make sure that any prescribed medication is taken as per doctor’s advice.
- Don’t forget to track your progress!
And that’s it for a start.
Work towards a healthy heart!
Image source: © World Heart Federation